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Rape victim 'shocked' when court ordered her computer records

Oct. 10, 2012 at 9:22 AM ET

After being raped, beaten and repeatedly choked on a date, Jennifer Bennett decided to pursue charges against her attacker. But then his defense attorneys sought her Google search history to learn what information she had looked up before and after her assault.

That’s where Bennett drew the line.

“I was shocked and I was hurt and I couldn’t believe that this was happening,” she told TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie on Wednesday. “And honestly, I felt like I needed to stick up for myself and stick up for everyone else.”

The 25-year-old Bend, Ore., woman defied a court order seeking the electronic records and began speaking out about her ordeal, both as a rape victim and as the subject of an often humiliating legal battle to put her attacker behind bars.

In addition to Bennett’s search engine queries, defense attorneys sought to comb through her Facebook account, her email, and the journals she kept to help her through the healing process.

“It was an extraordinary amount of information. I didn’t see how it was relevant,” she said.

Bennett’s attorney agreed, commending her client for drawing attention to a scenario that may be familiar to many rape victims.

“She wasn’t just doing it for herself. She was doing it for all victims who may, in the future, go to technology when they have questions,” said lawyer Jennifer Coughlin.

Coughlin said Bennett’s case was unusual and unprecedented, but may become less so in today’s technology-centered society.

“I think the courts are going to have to deal with it more as everyone goes to Google whenever they have a question and they expect those Google searches to be private,” Coughlin told Guthrie.

Bennett’s attacker, anesthesiologist and community college instructor Thomas Bray, was convicted for the attack. Last month, a court sentenced him to 25 years in prison.

With the legal battle behind her, Bennett said she’s started to move on with her life.

She would like to become a chemistry teacher, but she also plans to continue talking about her ordeal to inspire other victims.

“Yes, this happened to me. I’m a good person. I didn’t do anything to deserve this,” she said. “There’s lots of people out that this happens to all the time, and they deserve their justice as well.”

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